3 Oct 18

French market down 12.8% in September

New car sales in France were down 12.8% last month, compared with September 2017. It could have been worse, were it not for significant growth figures for PSA and Toyota.

After pushing up sales in the lead up to its introduction from September, the EU's new WLTP emissions test standard is now depressing the market, as expected.

Spectacular difference
For some brands, the difference, month to month, is spectacular. Nissan France sold 9,296 units in August, but just 1,458 in September. Some brands saw their sales shrink to triple digits, including Alfa Romeo (1,404 to 169) and Jeep (1,573 to 491). 

Porsche dropped from the high to the low end of the range (902 to 124 units), while Subaru was relegated to the two-digit zone (151 to 16). Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti even saw sales drop from 421 to just 6 units. 

On the whole, however, market decline is relatively contained. While August saw 43,000 extra new-vehicle registrations in France (+40% compared with the same month last year), the counter-reaction in September was less strong, with only 22,000 registrations less (-12.8% to 149,000 registrations).

Resilient sales
Sales to the private market were especially resilient, retreating only by 8.2%, to 50.6% of the total (in September 2017, they were just 48%).

Special channel sales, to dealer (-6.7%) and rental companies (-40.4%), were in clear retreat, together accounting for only 23.9% of September sales – compared with 28.2% in August and 27.1% in the previous September. 

Fleet sales (to corporates and lease companies) also had anticipated WLTP by rising in August, and consequently dropped in September. They only represented 22.6% of total sales, a year-on-year decline of 1.7%. The main factor was the decline in sales to lease companies (-24.8%).

Significantly up
Despite September's negative results, year-to-date figures remain significantly up. French car sales totalled 1.66 million units, up 6.5% over the same nine months in 2017.

It's been a stellar year so far for Renault, which had its best result since the same period in 2010. The French manufacturer sold 429,000 units, up 7.5% over the January-September 2017.

Quoted by Autoactu.com, Renault France's sales director Philippe Buros ascribed the success to, among other factors, “the addition to our product range of vehicles with new engines that are both more powerful and more economical”. 

However, Renault's September sales fell by 17.8% to 25.5% of the market. PSA, on the contrary, saw its figure increase by 2.6% last month, to 35.7% of the market. 

Brand level
At brand level, Peugeot (+0.7%) took 19.7% of the market, snatching the crown from Renault (-23.5%), with 18.9%. The trend is even more pronounced in the private channel, where Peugeot grew by 11.2% to 14,155 units (48.2% of its total sales), while Renault dropped by 26.1% to 12,954 units (46.1% of its mix). 

Citroën gained 4.7% in September, achieving its highest market share of the year (10.6%). It sold 55% of its total to the private market, against just 38% a year earlier. 

Dacia also remained positive in September (+5.6%) despite a slowdown in retail sales (+1.5%). Over 9 months, the brand reached a sales record of 108,250 units (+20.3%) with a third place on the private market (90,704 units vs. 80,805 for Citroën), thanks in particular to the Sandero (pictured).

Foreign brands
Opel, the smallest French-owned volume brand, also had a good month (+9.9% to 4.3% of the market), thanks to a 28% jump in its retail sales (59,7% of Opel's total sales). Year to date, however, the brand remains in the red (-0.9%).

Foreign-brand registrations fell by 17.9% in September, to 38.2% of the total (minus 3.2 percentage points compared to the same month last year). Toyota (+11.7%) has the biggest market share of the foreign brands (4.8%), beating Volkswagen (-34.4%) into second place (4.6%). Both Fiat and Ford fell 14% to around 3.4% of market share. 

Authored by: Frank Jacobs